There we were; in the tunnel.
18,000 FC Goa fans blaring their lungs out – pregnant with positivity. We strode onto the pitch, heading into one of the most crucial games of the season against one of the most impressive sides. We were not only the talk of the town but the country as well but not in the sense we enjoy.
That’s just part of the job. We hadn’t won in three games and not scored in two. Questions had been thrown at us left, right and centre.
For the next 90 minutes, we were due a few answers.
Football is not all black and white
Away from the field and the glitz and glamour, the moment that I cherish the most is when I get back from training. My two daughters sense my presence and come rushing. The hugs and the kisses that follow make me believe that I am truly blessed. In that moment I am simply happy.
Life, like football, is simple if you want it to be. And in simple terms all we want from both football and life are quite similar - some moments of joy and happiness.
I have not only been a player or a coach but also a fan. It’s hard to put into words the feelings that engulfs one when one comes back from a game and puts in the key to one’s home knowing that the team has grabbed all three points.
The effects of a win for fans are long lasting.
On matchdays, FC Goa turns into Goa’s conversation. It’s expectation as well as celebration. We play a brand of football that we hope that not only make our fans proud, but also happy. In the recent dampening run we failed to be a lot of things we wanted to be.
You can’t pour from an empty cup. You can’t make people happy if you are not happy yourself. Football doesn’t work like that.
So what was missing?
Whether it is a small kid in his backyard or the biggest star in front of the Camp Nou, he/she wants to feel happy. And when the ball starts rolling on the pitch, the happiest one feels is when one has the ball to play with.
We play the game that emphasises on movement and passing. We enjoy ‘playing’ the game. Football becomes the source of joy. We like to pass the ball, spread it around, or in other words – ‘like to spread the happiness around’.
In the games, we couldn’t find success as we moved away from our style. The happiness of playing football our way was not to be found.
I can tell from experience that the players sometimes see the world in black and white in terms of the results. If we win, it’s all hunky dory and if not, the mood is ‘heavy’ to put it gently.
There were moments within these three games that we did well. That is not always evident for the players who are engrossed in the action. When the team doesn’t do as expected, it’s easy for players to start doubting.
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We as coaches, especially of this FC Goa team, believe in our style and so do the players. But that’s not the only thing we believe in. We believe in our players as well. And in the days of darkness, belief is all you have to fall back on.
We not only had to make rigorous efforts on the training pitch to get back on track but also take feedback from our own players as to what they felt about the situation.
As coaches, we have to keep our minds open and that includes listening to our players.
In those dark times, we all came together. And by ‘we’, I mean every member of the coaching and technical staff. Everyone pulling in the same direction is what helped the players see the light in the dark.
We have a great bunch of guys in the locker room and that was evidenced in their performance against the Highlanders – a team I believe to be one of the best teams in the competition.
A ride to remember
The roar at the Fatorda when we score a goal and the exasperated sighs when we concede. The brilliant music blasting from the sound-system in the dressing room following a win and the deafening silence following a loss.
My time in India has been a concoction of different emotions. And through it all, our fans have been there; always behind us. For that, we are all ever grateful.
As the year turns, I am happy that we were able to give the FC Goa fans more reasons to smile than fret. Even before I came in, the club had helped itself to a semi-final spot in the 2017/18 season. Now this year, I am happy to be able to help the club keep that momentum.
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27 moments of bliss, 6 nights to carry home the celebrations. And I am confident, more are yet to come.
The year 2018 will always be one that I will have etched in my memories. And all thanks to our players and our fans. My stay in Goa has been wonderful. I have never looked back at this opportunity with any shade of regret.
It was a big call to end my days as a player, but when FC Goa had come with the offer, I felt that it was a chapter worth closing because in front of me laid a greater opportunity. I always wanted to be associated with football so you can say that this was something that was right up my alley.
In Sergio (Lobera) and Manu (Sayabera), I know I have people who are absolute professionals. They have had my back and in times of doubt, they are both friends as well as teachers.
We are what we choose to become
“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become,” – Will Smith (The Pursuit of Happyness, 2006)
We faced the toughest test going into the NorthEast game earlier this month. One point from the previous three games had instilled doubts in the minds of many watching us.
There are moments in your life that will forever be etched. You can choose to either dwell on what has transpired or do something about it.
It was a similar feeling when we took to the field against NorthEast. Our psyche going into the break was on the line; our reputation of being the most free-flowing side in the ISL was on the line. Our fans’ emotions were on the line.
The rest, as they say, is history. People wanted answers on the mic. Our boys answered on the pitch – one goal at a time.
We have been through ups and downs this season. In the end, however, we have belief in each other and our brand of football. And on that night against NorthEast, that shone through.
There is still a long way to go. Long breaks can be tricky and we aim to head into the second half of the season without injuries and ready to hit the ground running.
I am confident there are more encouraging verses yet to be penned as well before the season is over.